Buck Owens, country music icon, dies at 76

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Country music singer-songwriter icon and 1996 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Buck Owens has passed away at his Bakersfield, California residence. He was 76.

Family spokesman Jim Shaw made the announcement.

Considered by many the original rhinestone cowboy, Owens was responsible for over 20 number one hits including his first, "Act Naturally," in 1963, "Together Again," and "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail". Most of his biggest hits were released from the mid 1960's to mid 1970's. Among the numerous recording artists who recorded his songs were Emmylou Harris, the Beatles, who recorded "Act Naturally", and Dwight Yoakam, who had a 1988 duet with Owens on "Streets of Bakersfield". Many of these artists made hits for themselves as well with his songs. He was mentioned in cameo-passing during the Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Lookin' Out My Backdoor".

He transformed country music with his honky-tonk "Bakersfield Sound", so named for the town of his residence 100 miles north of Los Angeles where he moved in 1951. With Roy Clark, he co-hosted the long-running popular television comedy country-themed musical variety show Hee-Haw from 1969-1986. Owens's memorable red, white and blue guitar became his visual performance trademark.

Owens had throat cancer surgery in 1993 and was hospitalized with pneumonia in January 1997.

Born Alvis Edgar Owens on August 12, 1929 outside Sherman, Texas, he was the son of a sharecropper, and moved with his family to Arizona during the Great Depression at age 8, and by age 16 was playing music in taverns.

His first wife Bonnie sometimes performed with him, later becoming a lead back-up singer after their 1953 divorce. One of their two sons, Alvis Alan Owens, became a singer under the stage name Buddy Alan and had a 1968 top 10 hit "Let the World Keep on a -Turnin", and sang many duets with his father.

His two other sons, Michael and John, survive him.